Report from the Americas (1997)

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This document has been made available in electronic format
by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
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Dec., 1997
(Source: ICA Review, Vol.90 No.4, 1997, pp.35-37)


Report from the Americas
by Roberto Rodrigues*
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The Region
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Our work in the Americas Region has been guided by the decisions of the
two Regional Assemblies - Sao Paulo, Brazil, which in 1994 established
the three principal areas of activity; and the recent assembly in San Jose,
Costa Rica, which defined the Strategic Plan and implementation guidelines. 
Our priorities are: Co-operative Identity, Human Resource Development,
and Co-operative Business.

It is important to highlight the annual conference which ICA Americas
organises for all its members, dealing with topical themes in the region.
In 1995 the Regional Conference concentrated on strategic alliances, and
in 1996 the themes were: gender in co-operatives and the position of
co-operatives in the face of globalisation.  Out of all these activities came
proposals for strategy and for action which are shared among the members
and the co-operative movement in general.

Co-operative Identity
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In the area of co-operative identity, the Regional Office has been providing
all members in the region with a variety of written, audio, and electronic
materials regarding the Co-operative Identity Statement.  Experience shows
us that this work in the area of co-operative identity is a permanent one and
necessitates more and more creativity in terms of promotion.

In the Americas region we are carrying out our work with two basic
indicators: growth in membership and participation by members. Seen in
this perspective, the regional work is very satisfactory, given that we have
had a membership increase of 85 percent since the first regional assembly
and an increase of 25 percent just this last year.  There has been a
diversification of membership in terms of countries, now totalling 18, as
well as in terms of sectors, with an increase in members coming from the
banking and financial area.  Membership applications continue to arrive,
which has encouraged us to establish a goal of 100 members by the year
2000.

Human Resource Development
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In the area of human resource development, a general strategy has been
elaborated in consultation with members in the region.  The activation of the
continental committee in this area, as well as the arrival of financial support,
provide promising prospects for this theme, which is such a fundamental
element of co-operative distinctiveness.

The gender programme is one of the most active programmes in the region
and is making quite an impact.  It is based on the women's groups which
work in association with ICA member organisations, and provides them
with various educational material.  Following the 1996 conference in Costa
Rica, a continental strategy has been developed and is being implemented in
the different countries.  During 1997 attention has been focused on the
countries of the Andino Pact in order to establish networks of women's
co-operative groups and provide them with support materials.

At the request of member organisations, we have begun preparations to
organise in 1998 a continental forum to define working strategies for young
people, a group of growing importance for co-operatives in the region.

Co-operative Business
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The subject of business has been dealt with in ICA Americas by promoting 
business opportunities with co-operatives in the region.  The "doing
business" booklets presently cover 10 countries, and are available in
English, Spanish, and French.

Another element in this area is the promotion of sectoral activity,
encouraging the establishment of specialised committees and supporting
their work.  At present, committees are active in the fields of insurance,
consumer, banking, agriculture, and health.  We expect that the sectors of
housing and energy will also be established following our next Regional
Conference in Mexico.  

The results so far convince us that sectoral work is the most effective means
of providing added value to membership and supporting our members in a
direct and efficient manner.

The purpose of this sectoral work - that is, through specialised committees
operating at the continental level - is to help our co-operative business
enterprise members improve their competitive positions in their markets.
A present priority is to develop for each sector a business guide concerning
the activities of its members, as has already been done for health and
consumer co-operatives in the continent. 

A third effort in this area is to create personal and organisational
communication mechanisms through all possible media.  This is done
between the organisations and their possible investors, users, or consumers
through the production of material which makes the sector visible, promotes
its activities, and identifies its challenges or problems.

Internet
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We are convinced that today's reality is the one which comes on the screen,
which is why we are making a special effort to pull together all the
co-operative information both on Internet and through the creation of
Intranet platforms for the sectors.

Conclusion
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I hope that I have been able to give you a concise overview of the many
activities which are underway in the Americas.  

I would like to thank our members, and all the development agencies,
which make our work possible.  I would also like to invite all of you to
our next Regional Conference, which will take place in November in
Mexico, and which will focus on the theme of Co-operatives in the face of
Unemployment, which is without doubt of interest for the whole region as
well as for ICA members everywhere in the world.  We hope to be able to
share with all of you the beauty of Mexico as well as the importance of the
substance of our work.

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*  Mr. Rodrigues presents his last report as Vice President for the ICA/
Americas as he now takes on the role of ICA President, following the
General Assembly elections.